A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
ON THIS DAY
It’s the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León ’s discovery of the place he called Florida, the land of flowers.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet will begin the day by ceremoniously setting off a cannon at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. The Cabinet will then be joined by fourth and fifth grade students from Ketterlinus Elementary for a tour of the Colonial Quarter, and the day will conclude with the Florida cabinet meeting at Flagler College. Beginning at 6:30 a.m. Castillo de San Marcos, 1 S Castillo Dr.
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FLORIDA PORTS AWAIT OBAMA’S BUDGET FOR REIMBURSEMENTS via the News Service of Florida
Port officials in Florida are awaiting President Barack Obama’s April 10 budget proposal to see if they can begin requesting the more than $100 million that Gov. Rick Scott wants the federal government to repay for port improvements coming to Miami and Jacksonville. PortMiami Director Bill Johnson on Monday said the president could help Florida by putting a nominal amount into the budget – $50,000 to $100,000 – that would begin the process in which the state could start requesting additional reimbursements.
“Right now I can’t see getting any money at all unless Congress authorizes them to start,” Johnson said. “I told that to the president on Friday.” Obama spent a couple hours at PortMiami on Friday where he called on Congress to support large investments to build up deteriorating infrastructure.
On Monday, Scott met with Florida’s port directors who were meeting in Tallahassee, where he repeated his request for Obama to repay the state for the $75 million it put forward to advance the dredging of the Miami port from 42 feet to 50 feet, and the $36 million in state Department of Transportation funds that were directed to the Jacksonville Port Authority in January. The dredging for PortMiami is expected to begin in June.
JEB AUTHORS COVER STORY FOR APRIL’S NEWSMAX via contributor Karen Cyphers
In Jeb Bush’s cover story for April’s edition of Newsmax, an optimistic view of America’s future is portrayed as stemming from growth and open doors to economic opportunity; but instead of relying on sweet platitudes, he puts some meat on the policy bones — not surprising for the Governor who was known for seeking out “big, hairy, audacious ideas.”
Bush lamented that candidates too often shy away from talking specifics on the campaign trail. But shy away, he did not. In this interview and article alone, Bush cites the need to strengthen family values as a way to strengthen the economy; argues that too great an emphasis is placed on the college experience; believes that tax loopholes should be eliminated; and suggests that the retirement age should be raised to reflect increases in life expectancy. No doubt, there’s more where that came from.
HANK AARON GOES TO BAT FOR LOIS FRANKEL AS CANDIDATES MAKE END-OF-QUARTER CASH DASH by George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
Baseball’s true home run king, part-time West Palm Beach resident Hank Aaron, sent out a fundraising appeal for freshman US Rep. Lois Frankel last week, saying Frankel was “facing a big deadline.”
The 2014 election is 19 months away.
But the money primary is in full swing. Frankel and other candidates were scrambling to scoop up as much campaign cash as possible by Sunday night, the end of the first quarter reporting period for Federal Election Commission filings. Posting a big early contribution number when reports are filed April 15 is important to candidates hoping to establish credibility or scare off potential challengers.
RUBIO: THE SOLUTION OR THE PROBLEM via Talking Points Memo
If you listen to the cable chat shows, you hear that Marco Rubio is the key player who is required to make immigration reform happen. Only that’s almost certainly not true. Immigration reform was pretty clearly going to happen without Rubio’s involvement, albeit quite possibly more painfully for the GOP. And even on top of that reality, at least so far, Tea Partiers in the House have ended up being considerably more flexible on the issue than many folks would have anticipated. Rubio’s not the one who’s going to make reform happen. If anything, he’s made himself the one best positioned, if he chooses, to kill it.
WEST DOLED OUT $88K IN CONGRESSIONAL BONUSES AFTER LOSING 2012 ELECTION
Tea Party favorite Allen West talked a lot on the campaign trail in 2012 about the need for reigning in government spending. However, as one of his final acts as a member of the U.S. House after being defeated by Patrick Murphy, West doled out over $88,000 in bonuses to his congressional staff, the fourth highest amount of any member according to the website LegiStorm, which tracks congressional pay.
Retiring Democrat Gary Ackerman of New York was the most generous with public money, giving bonuses 100% above normal salary levels. Missour’s Todd Akin was second with a 98 percent increase in pay for his staff. Rep. Chip Cravaack was the third most generous, according to LegiStorm.
Quarterly pay for West’s congressional staff was typically $192,233. During the final quarter of 2012, West’s congressional staff’s salaries amounted to $273,758.
Of the top 10 members of Congress most generous with year-end bonuses, nine were Republicans, and 14 of the top 20 were, not coincidentally, on their way out of the House.
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FLORIDA RANKS 23RD IN ‘FREEDOM IN THE 50 STATES’ REPORT, UP FROM 28TH IN 2009 via contributor Karen Cyphers
The third annual “Freedom in the 50 States Report” ranks Florida 23rd overall based on various fiscal, regulatory, and personal freedoms, in which the state fares better than it did in 2009 but still significantly lags neighbor state Georgia in terms of personal freedoms, and has dropped in its freedom index dramatically since 2001. The Mercatus Center, a conservative/libertarian think tank, found New York residents to have the least freedom and North Dakota’s residents the most in its 2013 report, just released here.
Among the reasons cited for Florida’s five point improvement in freedom since 2009 are declines in health insurance mandate costs and deregulation of cable and telecom markets. Florida ranks relatively well in terms of fiscal freedoms, standing at 11th in the nation, but lands at 32nd in the nation on regulatory factors. On this front, the report cites the creation of Citizens Property Insurance as a strong negative, citing that the program “subsidizes costly coastal homes at the expense of inland taxpayers and has destroyed the private property insurance market in several areas. Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a reform bill in 2010.” To remedy this, Mercatus recommends abolishing Citizens and instead removing price controls on private property insurance.
Florida’s ranking on personal freedoms is the lowest of its grades, sitting at 36th among the states. Mercatus cites that Florida’s gun control laws are about average nationally but below average for the South, that marijuana laws are quite restrictive as are tobacco freedoms, and that incarceration rates are high. Florida’s only major asset in the personal freedoms index, according to Mercatus, are educational freedoms, in part because of tax-credit scholarships.
THE UNPRECEDENTED POPULATION DRAIN FROM NEW YORK TO FLORIDA via contributor Karen Cyphers
While Florida has long been the destination for New York retirees, far less migration has occurred among young adults. According to the five-year American Community Survey conducted by the US Census from 2007 to 2011, the number of New Yorkers moving to Florida in their 30s and 40s are about equal to those who are retired.
Why? New Yorkers may not be able to afford to remain home, or can’t find work there. Floridians may have to wear seat belts, but nobody has suggested that they can’t drink Big Gulps while doing so; and if they earn money selling Big Gulps, they pay no state income taxes on those profits. In contrast, New Yorkers pay the highest state and local taxes in the country, at 14% of income. In total, of all the people living in New York in 2000, nearly 9 percent have moved to other states. Florida’s message? Keep coming here (…and bring some delis with you).
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EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Gay marriage with your overpriced coffee? No thanks” from GOPUSA Midday Report
HEAD TURNING QUOTE FROM SENATOR LATVALA
In a meeting of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, Senator Jack Latvala told Citizens Property Insurance chief Barry Gilway, before voting to approve his confirmation, that “those who work for me in my business know … attitude is about 80% of the game.”
This from the same lawmaker who last month delivered a profanity-laced tirade for filing a public records request he called a “fishing expedition.”
“I don’t like [expletive deleted] requests that waste my [expletive deleted] time,” said Latvala.
In this spirit, please allow me to share what Senator Latvala truly meant to say, “Those who (expletive deleted) work for me in my (bleeping) business know that @#^&! attitude is about 80 (expletive deleted) of the game.
MEDICAL POT SPONSOR: CHANCES SLIM, BUT BALLOT PUSH COMING via the News Service of Florida
A bill (HB 1139) that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes said Monday that it has almost no chance of passing, but said backers will likely push a constitutional amendment that would put the question up to voters.
Rep. Katie Edwards put the measure’s chances of getting through the Legislature at “slim to none.” She said she didn’t support the idea at one time, but then she met patients with debilitating pain. “If you had asked me about six months ago when we were campaigning, if I would have filed this bill, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not,’ ” said Edwards. “Then I got sick myself and in the hospital (began) talking with … cancer patients and people who themselves were very sick.”
Joining Edwards at a news conference on the issue Monday at the Capitol was Cathy Jordan, who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The Manatee County woman, for whom the bill is named, believes using marijuana has kept her alive. Jordan has been an activist for legalization of marijuana for medical use. In February, her home was raided by police, who confiscated 23 marijuana plants, though Jordan and her husband weren’t arrested. Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use for certain people, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
SENATE ADVANCING LOOPHOLES FOR LOBBYIST GIFT-BAN via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
The Senate Ethics and Elections Subcommittee on Monday advanced a bill, SB 1634, which loosens the prohibition to allow some food and drink freebies for lawmakers and legislative employees. The bill would allow them to accept “individual servings of non-alcoholic drinks,” and meals at events where they are a speaker, a panel discussant, or other “widely attended events” so long as the meeting was noticed, they didn’t solicit it, the meal costs less than $25, and reporters are able to get into it.
The House and Senate would have to define in their rules what a “widely held event” would be.
SENATE PANEL TAKES HISTORIC STEP, PASSES DOMESTIC REGISTRY via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel
Just a week after the Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of gay marriage, a panel of Florida Senators approved the state’s first ever domestic partner registry.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel said that the committee had “made history.”
“We look forward to making this reality eventually in the state of Florida because it’s really about fundamental fairness,” she said.
The measure, by Sobel, created the registry, and laid out specific rights that partners would have in Florida, such as the right to hospital visitation or prison visitation. It also guarantees that a domestic partner would have the right to participate in end-of-life care and funeral arrangements.
Eighteen municipalities already have local domestic registries.
FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY from Mallory Wells
“Do you need more evidence Tallahassee is changing? Today I sat next to openly gay state representative … and watched a Senate committee pass our domestic partnership bill with a bi-partisan vote!”
SENATORS VOICE SUPPORT FOR EARLIER START DATE FOR LEGISLATURE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
State senators voiced support Monday for changing the starting date of legislative sessions in even-numbered years from March to January. The bill (SB 1356) is sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores who said it’s a good idea to advance the starting date so that Easter and Passover don’t fall in the middle of a session, and that building a state budget sooner in the year is better for cities and counties.
… If Flores’ bill becomes law, next year’s session would begin on Jan. 14, 2014.
Sen. Darren Sotocast the lone objection, saying the start of a session so soon after the holidays leaves little time for committee meetings to seriously consider legislation. Nine-week sessions in odd-numbered years would still begin in early March. Flores’ bill has no House companion at the moment.
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FLORIDA CHAMBER INTERNATIONAL DAYS BEGINS ITS FIRST FULL DAY OF EVENTS via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s International Days kicked off Monday evening with its Viva Florida celebration, featuring Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and continues Tuesday morning for a full day of meetings, panel discussions and lunch.
At 9:30-11:30am the Chamber’s International Business Council meets, followed by a noon lunch with Mark Wilson, President & CEO of the Florida Chamber, and Tom Donohue, President & CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to present from 1:00-1:15pm, introduced by Steven Sonberg, Managing Partner of Holland & Knight. After a half hour break, the summit continues with a panel discussion on the theme “A Global View of Florida”, moderated by Manny Mencia, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Florida, with panelists representing companies from Canada, Europe and Latin America.
Beginning at 3:00pm, moderator David Schwartz, Executive Director of Florida International Bankers, will host a panel on “Financing Your Exports”, with panelists representing the Small Business Administration and the Florida Export Finance Corporation. At 4:15pm, the Chamber hosts a Town Hall Meeting with Todd Kocourek, President &CEO of Florida First Capital Finance Corp. The first day of this summit ends with a 6:00pm reception at the Governor’s Mansion. For more details, visit here.
FIRST IN SUNBURN: LOOK FOR SCOTT TO SIGN EPEAL OF INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LAW AT FLA. CHAMBER CONFERENCE
Am hearing that Gov. Scott will sign today HB 7059, repealing a law that has caused confusion about whether international visitors need special permits to drive in Florida.
Scott is expected to sign the bill after speaking at the Florida Chamber’s International Days conference. Scott speaks at 1 p.m. after US Chamber President Tom Donohue addresses the conference.
The law called for foreign visitors to get what are known as international diving permits before leaving their home countries. Those permits would be in addition to regular driver’s licenses, and the requirement was designed to help Florida law-enforcement officers sort out traffic incidents, especially involving international visitors who don’t speak English.
But the law, which took effect Jan. 1, created confusion as foreign tourists drove into the state or rented cars. Also, state officials said it might violate an international treaty called the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic.
Concerned about the potential treaty violation, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles last month said the Florida Highway Patrol would not enforce the international driving permit requirement.
HOW META: WEATHERFORD TEASES TIMES/HERALD WITH ‘APRIL FOOLS’ DAILY SCHEDULE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
House Speaker Will Weatherford decided to have a little fun with his daily schedule for April 1, teasing the press corps. and specifically the Times/Herald bureau with fake appointments.
His daily schedule, which the Times/Herald bureau uses in its dogged coverage of Weatherford and the Legislature, speaks of “secret budget negotiations,” a “third annual” retirement party for longtime Times reporter Lucy Morgan and a 5:30p.m. “review of March Madness Bracket with Team Leadership.”
SENIOR ARCADES UNJUSTLY THREATENED BY ERRONEOUS ASSOCIATION WITH INTERNET CAFES via contributor Karen Cyphers
It is one thing to protect seniors from scams — which the Legislature’s proposed Internet cafe ban would do — but another to remove legal avenues to the low-stakes entertainment offered at senior arcades; doing so would accomplish nothing more than drive seniors into the arms of real casinos, with real stakes and bottomless slots. Gaming lobbyists dream? Seems so. But this wouldn’t have worked for my grandmother, whose social life was enhanced by penny games and weekly Bingo; and it shouldn’t work for this Legislature as they seek to crack down on the real culprits.
In 2006, courts ruled that senior arcades are not gambling institutions, yet gaming lobbyists effectively incorporated senior arcades into this year’s bill; a move that, according to the Florida Arcade Association, unfairly groups these centers with the illegal activities of Internet cafes in the hopes of eliminating all forms of gaming competition. Unlike Internet cafes — but just like Chuck E. Cheese — patrons at senior arcades play games requiring the application of skill and receive redemption tokens that are turned in for low-cost, non-cash prizes. And unlike in Internet cafes or casinos, seniors can play these games for pennies.
With this unexpected fight on its hands, the Florida Arcade Association has brought on Sachs Media Group to help make the case and have launched the “Save Our Arcades” campaign. Sachs is no stranger to these issues: In 2012 they waged an award-winning campaign with the Chamber of Commerce to oppose mega-casinos. In my view, the ban on Internet cafes is appropriate. But allowing a marginal turf war waged by industry giants to close seniors out of entertainment arcades is an unnecessary casualty in the process. Casinos can claim enough victims on their own.
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COMMUNITY PHARMACIES BILL UP FOR DISCUSSION
Community pharmacy owners throughout the state are pleading with lawmakers to add uniformity and consistency to auditing practices by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) currently lacking protections for small business owners.
“Our small businesses are being hurt by unannounced audits by non-state licensed pharmacists seeking clerical errors to collect cash back for PBMs,” said Jim Koivisto, owner of Halliday’s & Kovistos in Jacksonville. “We are simply asking lawmakers to level the playing field so we can provide the proper paperwork in a timely fashion without being forced to halt our businesses, which ultimately hurts our customers and our community.”
Senate Bill 1358 is up in Senate Health Policy Committee at 12:30 in 412 Knott.
SENATE COMMITTEE TO TAKE UP CONTROVERSIAL ALTERNATIVE TO MEDICAID EXPANSION via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida
In a possible alternative to expanding Medicaid, a Senate committee Tuesday is expected to take up a proposal aimed at helping low-income Floridians get health services — while turning down billions of dollars in federal money.
The proposal, which Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean has helped draw up, would create the “Health Choice Plus Program” and would target adults whose incomes are below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Health Choice Plus would not be a traditional health-insurance program. Instead, money would go into accounts, which enrollees could tap to help pay for health-care services.
The proposal (SPB 7144) comes after House and Senate Republicans rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. But it also differs greatly from a proposal by Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron to use federal money to provide private insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians.
Bean has discussed his idea in broad terms, but the bill posted online provides the first clear details. During a March 20 meeting, Bean said he was trying to find a way to address health care for about 600,000 uninsured Floridians whose incomes fall below the poverty threshold, without becoming “addicted” to federal money.
“What can we say yes to (as a way to) expand coverage for those without creating an entitlement?” said Bean, whose committee is scheduled to consider the bill Tuesday.
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ELITE EIGHT OF TALLYMADNESS
In Bracket 1, #9 seed Frank Mayernick defeated #5 seed (and wife) Tracy Mayernick. Mayernick will face #3 seed Robert Coker, who knocked-off #10 seed Sean Pittman.
In Bracket 2, #12 seed Richard Coates took down #8 seed Matt Bryan, while #7 seed Rhett O’Doski beat #3 seed David Ramba.
In Bracket 3, #5 seed Mark Delegal outdistanced #5 seed Clark Smith and #15 Monica Rodriguez is KO’ed #6 Tim Meehan.
In Bracket 4, #9 seed Marion Hammer defeated #5 seed Gus Corbella in a match-up with over 60,000 votes, while #3 seed Ron LaFace finished well ahead of #10 seed Allison Carvajal.
Voting in the Elite Eight ends tonight at 10:00 p.m.
FIRST IN SUNBURN – ED NARAIN FILING FOR HD 61
Ed Narain, a dedicated member of the Tampa community who has served in various community and civic roles over the last nineteen years, is filing for House District 61, the heavily Democratic seat currently held by Rep. Betty Reed. A proud member of the Tampa Alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Narain is a former USF student body president.
Narain is an area retail sales manager for AT&T.
Narain is married with two young daughters.
FLORIDA’S TOP TWEETERS FOR APRIL
Click here for a ranking of Florida’s Top Political Tweeters for April 2013.
At the top of the list — for the second month in a row — is Congressman Dan Webster, who has improved his score by fourteen points over the last two months. Webster, perhaps surprisingly, ranked a point ahead of Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott.
Elected officials and politicians dominate nine of the top ten spots on the list of Top Political Tweeters; MSNBC analyst Joy Ann Reid is the only non-politician to crack the Top 10.
The Tampa Bay Times‘ Craig Pittman, an avid user of Twitter, is the top ranking Florida journalist, coming in at #17 on the list. New media whiz Jordan Raynor and Democratic consultant to the political stars Steve Schale are the top-ranked operatives. And Progress Florida at #27 is the top ranked organization.
Other non-politicians in the Top 25 are Kenneth Quinell, Nick Egoroff, Rachel Pienta, and Peter Schorsch.
When it comes to determining the Top Tweeters, we prioritize quality, not quantity. The rankings are based on someone’s Klout score. When someone engages with your content, Klout assesses that action in the context of the person’s own activity. These principles form the basis of their PeopleRank algorithm which determines your Score based on how many people you influence, how much you influence them and how influential they are.
If you believe you belong on the list of Florida’s Top Political Tweeters, but are currently not, please email me at SaintPeter4@gmail.com.
FSU DAY AT THE CAPITOL
It’s the 11th annual FSU Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, with events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with displays and information tables several colleges and academic departments on the first three floors of the Capitol, and a pep rally in the Capitol Courtyard to recognize FSU alumni legislators 11:30 to 1 p.m. More informaion can be found here.
GEO WITHDRAWS OFFER TO NAME FAU STADIUM
The GEO Group has withdrawn its offer to pay the school $6 million for 12 years of stadium naming rights, citing the ongoing protests and criticism of the deal. Students and other activists had criticized the deal and accused the private company of human rights violations at facilities in Florida.
The Sun-Sentinel reports that the GEO Group will instead donate $500,000 to FAU.
LOBBYIST HAS A SAY IN BILLBOARD LAW REWRITE via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union
The Florida Department of Transportation is giving a lobbyist for the state’s outdoor advertisers influence over its rewrite of the law overseeing that industry.
A series of emails obtained by the Times-Union shows the department working directly with lobbyist Pete Dunbar while hashing out where new billboards should legally be allowed. Among Dunbar’s many clients is the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association.
After consulting with Dunbar on several issues, the transportation department made a change to legislation that is opposed by both environmental groups and the recommendation of the department’s own third-party consultant.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala said he knew nothing about the changes.
MY TAKE (AND IT MIGHT GET ME IN TROUBLE WITH A CERTAIN STATE SENATOR)
Really, Senator, if the outdoor advertisers bring you something, you just assume it’s good public policy?
Nothing against my friends at ClearChannel, etc., but their primary motivation is the bottom-line, not good public policy. Those two goals are not mutually exclusive, mind you, but a public official should not assume that a change from an industry to a law overseeing the industry is good public policy.
Pete Dunbar is a good man and he is a good friend to Senator Latvala. There is a trust between them not mentioned in Dixon’s story.
But Latvala’s statement is, at best, a poor choice of words. At worst, it is a perfect example of Kinsleyesque gaffe when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FLORIDA’S SEVEN-YEAR-OLD GIFT BAN via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print
Sen. Tom Lee who has already acknowledged that his effort is likely a long shot this year – will try to move his rework of the state’s seven-year-old “zero tolerance” gift ban through its first committee stop on Monday. His proposed changes would also attempt to make it easier for a lawmaker to show up at a luncheon sponsored by a hometown group.
The kicker in Lee’s bill is that it would revert everything back to current law on June 30, 2015. Lee said he put these provisions in to make sure that just in case the changes he proposed turn into big loopholes the law will automatically revert back to the way it once was. But it’s important to recall a bit of history here to understand why – and how – Florida got to where it is now.
Early 1990s: State Attorney Willie Meggs began charging legislators for failing to report gifts worth more than $25. Lawmakers changed the ban to all gifts worth $100 or more. Sidestepping disclosure requirements continued.
2005: A Miami Herald review of 3 years worth of gift disclosure forms shows that only a few lobbyists regularly report when they hand out gifts or pay for meals worth more than $25. Others found ways to divide gift costs per legislator among all of their clients, bringing gifts below the reporting threshold. Lee’s original bill was not a complete ban on gifts by lobbyists, but the House didn’t like it and bluffed with a zero ban in the hopes of the whole thing going away, but the Senate took up House language and it was signed into law.
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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy by Jeff Greenfield.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our good friend, Democratic spokesman extraordinaire Danny Kanner.
THANKS FOR THE FOLLOWS: Alan Levine, follow him at @ALevine014 and Jennifer Martin, follow her @JMMartin1022